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Is a zero-turn mower or lawn tractor best for you?

Posted on:Jan 24, 2024

Is a Zero-Turn Mower or Lawn Tractor Best for You?

When mowing a large property or rural acreage, you need a mower that is comfortable, easy to operate and efficient while delivering a quality cut that you can be proud of at the end of the day. If you own a tractor-style mower, you might be wondering if now is the time to switch to a zero-turn. 

There are advantages to zero-turn mowers and benefits to tractor-style riding mowers. Both can handle cutting large swaths of land — and both zero-turn and riding mowers can multitask with attachments such as a collection system, aerator or sprayer. Plus, when you partner with an independent dealer who sells commercial-grade lawn equipment, you know you are getting a quality mower whether you choose a zero-turn or tractor-style model. 

But there are some major differences between zero-turn and traditional riding mowers that you should understand before investing in new lawn equipment. 

Let’s compare zero-turn mowers to tractor-style riding lawn mowers so you can weigh the pros and cons and decide what is best for you. 

A Cut Above with Zero-Turn Mowers

From efficiency with faster speeds and zero-turn maneuverability to mow in tight corners and along curved landscapes, here are some reasons you might choose a zero-turn mower instead of a lawn tractor.

Maneuverability: The hallmark of zero-turn mowers is their ability to turn on a dime and execute 180-degree turns, and this maneuverability is a real bonus when mowing row after row on a large property. Also, a zero-turn allows you to maneuver effortlessly around landscape and garden beds, along with easily navigating curves and tight corners. If your property is fenced in, all Grasshopper mower decks are offset on the left side so there is more deck to reach under obstacles. 

Efficiency: When maintaining a large property, the time required to cut grass every week is a key factor when investing in a mower. Efficiency is another advantage of zero-turn mowers. For instance, a FrontMount Grasshopper delivers mowing speeds up to 10 mph and can cut about 6.55 acres per hour. On the other hand, the average lawn tractor cuts grass at a pace of 3 to 5 mph. 

Quality Cut: While speed is important for saving time when mowing, you don’t want to sacrifice quality of cut and you don’t have to with a MidMount zero-turn mower. When the mower features an extra-deep deck, it generates a high volume of airflow that minimizes the buildup of clippings and discharges them in a wide pattern so you can achieve a manicured look in a single pass. This saves you from bagging clippings or double-cutting a lawn to disperse clumps of grass. Also, there’s no limit to the cutting patterns you can achieve with a zero-turn mower. 

Versatility: You might have heard that tractor-style mowers are the best choice if you want to add attachments like a bagger, mulch kit or dethatcher. But this is not the case. You can add implements to zero-turn mowers, too. For example, a FrontMount zero-turn Grasshopper mower can support a PowerVac™ Collection System, aerator and dethatcher, while the MidMount zero-turn can house those attachments plus an edger, shielded sprayer and dethatcher. We recommend talking to your lawn equipment dealer about the tasks you expect to perform with your mower so you can be sure the model you select will suit your goals.

Comfort: When you’re covering lots of ground, mower ergonomics are especially important. Mower comfort also affects how you operate the equipment, which makes an impact on the quality of cut. Zero-turn mowers with dual-steering levers are less strenuous than conventional steering wheel systems. There is an option to adjust levers to customize your reach to reduce strain and increase comfort. Zero-turn mowers with multi-point suspension reduce vibration and deliver a smooth ride over rough terrain. Also, because zero-turn mowers have a low center of gravity, there is less jolting when you cross over bumpy ground. 

Storage: While a larger zero-turn mower may take up more room in a garage, shed or barn, there’s a handy feature that flips up the mower deck so you can easily store it. For example, a PowerFold® feature lifts front-mounted decks with the touch of a switch. This way, you can easily clean the undercarriage and save space when the mower is not in use.

Maintenance: With FoldUp and PowerFold® available for out-front decks, you can easily access the underside of the deck to perform routine maintenance and cleaning. Plus, maintenance time is significantly reduced with fewer lubrication points, along with lower maintenance cost with up to 1,000 hours of run time between oil changes. 

Slow and Steady with a Tractor-Style Mower

Now, let’s compare how tractor-style mowers perform when evaluating maneuverability, efficiency, cut quality, versatility and ergonomics. 

Maneuverability: Tractor-style mowers have a traditional steering wheel like a truck, which is appealing if you don’t like the idea of the dual-lever steering system you’ll find on zero-turn mowers. However, much like parallel parking a car, to cut straight, even rows of grass you have to turn, reverse, turn again and straighten the wheel before mowing the next pass. This might not seem like a big deal, but when you’re cutting grass on a large property or maintaining rural acreage, the extra effort can add up to a lot more time and more fatigue by the end of the job.

Efficiency: Lawn tractors are slow and steady, operating at about half the speed of a typical zero-turn mower. However, there’s something to be said for taking your time, and while not as fast, tractor-style mowers get the job done. Going back to speed, lawn tractors tend to produce a lower blade tip speed than zero-turns, so the machine might work harder to disperse clippings. This might force you to backtrack and re-mow areas to distribute clumps or use a bagger.  

Quality Cut: Quality is subjective, but it goes beyond how your lawn looks. Cutting quality affects the health of your lawn, too. Riding lawn mowers can steadily climb slopes and maintain a consistent speed, and you can achieve a quality, straight-cut mowing pattern in wide, open spaces. Keep in mind, achieving a manicured look will take a bit more time as you maneuver through turns.

Versatility: A key advantage of tractor-style mowers is the flexibility to add a wide range of attachments to perform other landscape maintenance duties, from edging and pushing snow to collecting leaves. Attachment variety is one of the key benefits of a lawn tractor.

Comfort: Tractor-style mowers are usually equipped with comfortable seats and suspension like their zero-turn counterparts. Some find the two-lever steering system on zero-turns easier to operate without training to turn in tricky areas.. When evaluating any mower’s ergonomics, we recommend easily accessible controls; adjustable steering; a suspension seat with adjustable backrest, armrests and lumbar support; a shock-absorbing footrest; and the option to add a canopy to protect you from the heat and sun.

Is a Zero-Turn Mower or Lawn Tractor Best?

Still not sure whether a zero-turn mower is better for your large property than a tractor-style riding mower? We recommend visiting a servicing dealer to test drive one so you can feel how it performs.

Interested in more mowing tips from the pros at Grasshopper? Check out our library of how-to videos, or sign up for our newsletter. Thinking about a new mower? Our team can help you choose the best model for your needs.


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